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Understanding Burnout-A Primer For Female Founders

"Entrepreneurs are more at risk of burnout because we tend to be extremely passionate about our work, are more socially isolated, with limited safety nets, and operate in high levels of uncertainty"-Accenture.com

Woman in a darkened room
female entrepreneurs are at a higher risk of experiencing burnout in comparison to men

In 2022, I faced the toughest year of my life, both professionally and personally.


It felt like everything that could go wrong did go wrong.


I lost a significant amount of money, was deceived by some of my relatives, and to top it off, endured a long, drawn-out legal battle.


There were days when getting out of bed seemed impossible, and the pain was so overwhelming that I wondered if I'd ever find peace of mind again. My business, which I had started with so much enthusiasm, was caught in a perfect storm. And worst of all, I went through it all almost completely alone.


I felt like I had poured my heart out, and now I was all out of juice.



Recent research suggests that female entrepreneurs are at a higher risk of experiencing burnout in comparison to their male counterparts. This heightened susceptibility is largely attributed to the distinct challenges they encounter, such as navigating the delicate balance between work and personal life, addressing societal expectations, and overcoming gender biases.


The cumulative effect of these factors contributes to elevated stress levels, reduced productivity, mental health concerns, and, in some cases, business setbacks.


In this blog article,  I'll attempt to explore the effects of burnout on female founders and share five strategies that's helped me and other fempreneurs to both mitigate and manage it effectively.



"I am dismantling a lot of previously held beliefs about what it means to be a woman in our society"-Elizabeth Su.


The Impact of Burnout on Female Founders: A Closer Look


1. Mental Health Issues: 

According to the American Psychiatry Association nearly three in ten adults (29%) have been diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives and about 18% are currently experiencing depression. Their research also indicates that women more than men and younger adults are likely to experience depression. 


This, coupled with the fact that more women are now choosing to become entrepreneurs - a decision outside of the patriarchal model-there's also a marked lack of support when things go wrong. 


2Decreased Productivity: 

One of the major symptoms of burnout is seen in decreased cognitive functions-marked by difficulty/inability to focus, make decisions, and solve problems.


A 2022 article by Gallup found that employees experiencing burnout are 63% more likely to take a sick day and 23% more likely to visit the emergency room.

 

In the same article, author Jennifer Robison went on to state, "Successful businesses depend on effective managers' productivity, performance, engagement and retention...but what if the manager is burned out? What happens to the organization? What happens to the manager?"



Female Founder thinking about her business
One of the major symptoms of burnout is seen in decreased cognitive functions

3. Business Performance: 

The inability to function at required levels is usually linked to subpar business performance.


This in turn leads to reduced innovation, poor customer relations, and ultimately, financial loss. 


In numerous cases, women frequently face underrepresentation when it comes to accessing funding, encountering processes that are typically more rigorous and onerous. Consequently, it is unsurprising that businesses owned by women are often the first to confront the pressures leading to burnout.'


4. Physical Health Problems: 

Chronic stress takes a heavy toll on our bodies and minds, leading to serious health issues such as heart disease, weakened immunity, and chronic pain.


For many female founders, this stress manifests in ways that are hard to ignore: constant feelings of overwhelm, frequent headaches or digestive problems, along with the "emotional roller coasters" of irritability and mood swings.



"If you don't learn how to control your thoughts, you will never learn how to control your behavior"-Joyce Meyer.


5. Work-Life Imbalance: 

Continuing from the absence of familial or community support, numerous female founders are frequently required to manage various roles, such as wife, mother, and caregiver, resulting in an imbalance between their professional and personal obligations.


This imbalance can intensify feelings of burnout, further perpetuating a cycle of stress and dissatisfaction.




Five Strategies to Beat Burnout and Thrive


1. Prioritize Self-Care: 

Viewing this as an "unnecessary activity" may be tempting, but research from the Mayo Clinic demonstrates that engaging in regular physical activity can significantly enhance mood and energy levels.


Incorporating stress-relieving practices such as meditation or cultivating a hobby can offer essential respites from work, contributing to overall mental and physical well-being.



2. Build a Support Network: 

One of the key triggers for burnout among female founders is undeniably connected to a deep sense of shame. The pervasive "Girl Boss Era" has unfortunately led many fempreneurs to succumb to "Imposter Syndrome," particularly when seeking seed funding.


Engaging with fellow female entrepreneurs via networking groups or professional associations offers invaluable emotional support, practical guidance, and a strong sense of community. According to the Harvard Business Review, "Rapport is the key element that elevates mentoring to a truly transformative experience, going beyond mere organizational duty."



Woman experiencing joy
One of the key triggers for burnout among female founders is undeniably connected to shame

3. Delegate and Outsource: 

Delegating tasks to employees or outsourcing to Virtual Assistants can help you manage your workload more effectively.


By focusing on your high-priority tasks, while entrusting others with routine activities, you're better able to reduce your stress and improve overall efficiency. 


In an article for Fast Company, Management Expert Deborah Grayson Riegel states that "Delegating, when done well, not only reduces your own workload, it develops your employees, gives you and your team a bigger range of skills and impact, provides emergency back-up (since you’re not the only one who knows how to do something), creates inclusive opportunities, empowers people, and retains talent."



4. Set Boundaries: 

So, get this - I once had this client who seriously believed the only time I shouldn't be picking up my phone was when I was praying (I know, right?).


Luckily, we went our separate ways, and she found someone else who was cool with that rule.


But listen up, there is definitely such a thing as being too available. As a female founder, it's super important to set boundaries between work and personal life. Having set work hours, taking breaks, and making time for family and fun activities is key to keeping a good balance.



"You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once." - Oprah Winfrey.


5. Seek Professional Help: 

When your burnout symptoms start to impact you, it's time to take action.


Seeking help from a therapist or counselor will equip you with effective strategies to manage stress, enhance your mental well-being, and build resilience.


In times of uncertainty, psychological safety empowers you to be authentic in your professional life. Embrace risks and vulnerability without the fear of repercussions.


This environment cultivates creativity, teamwork, and resilience, making it a crucial element for excelling in demanding situations.



The Final Verdict: Summing It Up


Burnout is fast becoming a pervasive issue among female founders, with far-reaching effects on our health, productivity, and business success.


Recognizing the signs of burnout and proactively implementing strategies will empower you to safeguard your well-being and maintain seamless business operations.


By prioritizing self-care, establishing a strong support system, delegating tasks, setting boundaries, and seeking professional assistance, you can effectively stay ahead and grounded in your endeavors.




Woman holding a workbook
We're getting ready to re-issue this workbook created specifically for female founders-Get on the waitlist!

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